A former Green Beret is using adrenaline-based outdoor adventures to bring healing to special operations veterans.
Travis Wilson gave 21 years to the U.S. military. He almost gave his life, too.
But before a night jump training accident would almost kill him — he was a military brat raised to value service and hard work. Wilson’s dad was a pararescue specialist — known as a “PJ” for the Air Force — during the Vietnam War. Wilson said he grew up hearing the Ballad of the Green Berets sung throughout the house — the Army Special Forces operators had a special place in his dad’s heart.
Wilson’s own journey would take him from being an Army medic to making it through the Army’s selection for Q course to become an elite warfighter, a Green Beret.
There were endless battles fought, devastating losses experienced and then the fateful night jump that changed his life. Wilson finished out his career working outside the teams due to his injuries from a broken back but still working as a SOF operator in the shadows, alone this time.
Alpha Elite Performance Outdoors was born out of a belief that healing can be found for combat veterans together, outside.
“I personally witnessed it. That’s why I got involved in starting my own nonprofit. It was seeing guys come together on things like a hunt,” Wilson said. “That adrenaline and coming together, sitting around a campfire, and drinking some beers. Telling stories that they couldn’t normally tell the civilians or their spouses and just kind of reconnecting and finding out that that guy sitting over there is going through exactly what this guy’s going through.”
It would take him back to Africa, this time for a much different mission and without a uniform.
Alexander “Alex” Oelofse was raised by parents who were dedicated conservationists. His mother’s passion for saving rhinos resulted in the creation of the Mount Etjo Rhino Trust, a 36,000 hactare sanctuary for various rare and endangered species, according to its website. It was Oelofse who invited Wilson to Namibia to hear his suggestions.
“I went over there to be of added value training wise to the anti-poaching unit – really to just add common sense ideas to [an] already great program. Sharing what I knew as a former Green Beret, having spent time in Africa going after bad guys, things like that. They actually have a great system in place,” Wilson said. “It was awesome to just be able to get away and just kind of go to God’s country — that place is absolutely amazing.”
He also began developing a way to bring a deserving veteran to the continent for free to enjoy Jan Oelofse Hunting Safaris, through AEP.
Since Wilson’s trip to Namibia and sharing about it through his social media channels, offers for additional outdoor opportunities for veterans have poured in.
“These are things veterans don’t normally get to experience. If I can keep finding ways to help make that happen, I’m all in,” he added.
In June of 2022 his nonprofit partnered with veteran owned RedRum Sport Fishing to take 10 combat veterans on a fishing trip in Cabo, Mexico. It’s been an experience that humbled Wilson.
“We have some guys who have lost kids and spouses, their friends. It was a healing experience for them to get away from the normal everyday stress and just be together in that way,” he added.
Wilson has watched many friends leave the military without purpose, losing themselves in the process. He says it’s his goal to help them find the good by not only being outside but also from experiencing the beauty of the “team” atmosphere again.
“These guys and gals, once they stop moving after getting out, some get a little bit behind the power curve, and it messes with their heads. Then depression sets in,” he explained. “Movement and getting outside is so important for wellbeing and I hope through our efforts with we can encourage more of it. They’re worth it.”